Benrinnes 15, 2003 (Old Particular for K&L)


Benrinnes is a distillery whose whiskies I always find interesting. Sadly, I don’t often get a chance to taste them as there’s not a lot of it around—not in the US anyway. I’ve only reviewed a small handful on the blog. The last time I reviewed a Benrinnes bottled as an exclusive cask for K&L the bottler was Signatory and the cask was 20 years old. Now the bottler is Old Particular and the cask is 15 years old. However, as you will see, I had a similar experience with both: finding notes in them that I was not prepared for by K&L’s tasting notes, in particular, a fair bit of peat. I noted last time that I had worried that the sample had been mislabeled but then heard from others who had found similar things in it. This time I’ve not heard from anyone else. If you too have a sample of this whisky or, better still, an open bottle, do write in below to say if my notes track at all with yours. I’m particularly interested in hearing from you if you are not an employee of K&L. Let’s get to it.
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Blair Athol 21, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)


It’s time for my annual Blair Athol review. I’ve not reviewed very many of them and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been from sherry casks, I believe (this includes the official 12 yo Flora & Fauna release which may or may not be still a thing). This one, however, is from a bourbon cask, and like many of K&L’s casks from their recent release it’s from a refill hogshead. It’s always interesting to try a malt in a different guise than its norm and refill hogsheads are—in principle anyway—a good thing. Let’s see if this one rewards that confidence.

Blair Athol 21, 1997 (56.1%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malt, a bit of sugar, some apple. Pleasant but somewhat generic right off the bat. With a bit of time there’s some more sweeter fruit (berries of some kind) but it’s still not terribly interesting. With more time there’s some vanilla and some pastry crust. With time and a few drops of water the fruit is a little more pronounced. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (Old Particular for K&L)


Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews with yet another K&L exclusive. On Monday I reviewed a Tamdhu 19. I liked it, thought it was very drinkable indeed, but was not blown away by it. Today I have a Ben Nevis that is a year younger. As regular readers of the blog know, I am generally a big fan of contemporary Ben Nevis. The distillery’s malt usually provides a very unique mix of fruit, malt and a characteristic funk that is very hard to describe. Will this one be in that vein? I certainly hope so. Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (52.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Takes a few seconds to open up and then there’s some lemon with a prickly, peppery mineral note alongside. Below that is some malt, some sweet notes of vanilla and cream and just a bit of that Ben Nevis gasoline funk. As it sits richer, muskier fruit begins to gather in the background but doesn’t quite pop out—maybe with more time? Well, not so much with time but with water there’s sweeter fruit (peach?) and it melds nicely with the malt and the cream. Continue reading

Old Blends: Black & White, Late 1940s/Early 1950s


There are a lot of things I post on the blog that most of my old whisky readership has no interest in: recipes, restaurant reviews, pictures of markets, reviews of old blended whiskies. Accordingly, here is a review of a Black & White released sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I expect it will be enjoyed by the tens of visitors who also read my review of a late 1940s/early 1950s Ballantine’s back in December. As for myself, I will be happy if I like this one as much as I liked that one. This is not actually my first review of a Black & White from the days of yore. Back in 2013, just a few months into the blog’s existence, I’d reviewed one from the 1960s. That was an unscored review but my notes indicate that I quite liked it. Let’s see how this one fares.

Black & White (43.4%; Late 1940s/Early 1950s release; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mild sweet notes (orange) mixed with putty and a decent whack of peat (though not medicinal). The peat gets more organic as it sits (dead rat). Some brine in there too with time. Gets maltier with a few drops of water and some mildly honeyed notes emerge as well. Continue reading

Tamdhu 19, 1998 (OMC for K&L)


Another week, another K&L exclusive. This here is a 19 year old whisky from another distillery I haven’t had a lot of; again because there hasn’t always been such a huge amount of its malt out there, certainly not in the US. I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the old Tamdhu 10 from 10-12 years ago but haven’t followed it since it got the Coke bottle-style redesign. Actually, I just looked up the official website and it appears the current 10 year old is a limited edition being sold for the very reasonable price of £120. For reference, the old 10 yo used to be available <$30. (In fact, as I think about it I may still have a bottle of the old 10 yo—perhaps I’ll open it next month.) The regular lineup now includes a 12 yo and a 15 yo plus a couple of NAS releases. If you have tried any of these please write in below to let me know if I’m missing an experience I shouldn’t miss. Meanwhile. I have reviewed a few indie Tamdhus of this approximate age before (see here and here for the two most recent). In fact the last one I reviewed was also in the Old Malt Cask line—part of the release commemorating the 20th anniversary of the label—and I quite liked it. Will this be as good or better? I hope so. Let’s see. Continue reading

Aultmore 21, 1997 (Maltbarn)


I’ve only reviewed three Aultmores prior to this one, all in 2017 (here, here and here). I’d love to say that 2020 will be the year when I get my Aultmore review count into the double digits but there’s not very much Aultmore out there to be reviewed—very little that’s available in the US at any rate. A pity, as I’ve liked all the (few) Aultmores I’ve tried, even if none have gotten me very excited. Will this—the oldest I’ve yet tried, from the reliable indie outfit, Maltbarn—be the one that gets me very excited? I certainly hope it won’t be the one that I don’t like at all. Let’s see.

Aultmore 21, 1997 (50.7%; Maltbarn; bourbon cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: Fruity ex-bourbon goodness with apple cider, pear and lemon. On the second sniff there’s some malt and a slightly grassy note along with a bit of candle wax and a touch of white pepper. The fruit gets muskier as it sits (pineapple). With a few drops of water there’s a sweet floral note to go with the pineapple. Continue reading

Park Lot 18, Borderies (Cognac)


A cognac to start the month. This is also a K&L exclusive but is not, I think, a very recent release. Based on when I got the sample—from Florin, the Man with 10,000 Faces—I would guess it was released in 2016 or 2017. Perhaps this means that if I don’t like it very much K&L staff will not take it very personally. As you know, if you’ve followed my brandy reviews, I know even less about cognac production than I do about whisky. As such, I have no idea about the reputation of this producer. I do know that the Borderies is the smallest of the Cognac regions and I’ve read that cognac made here is reputed to be at its best at younger ages than those made in Grande and Petit Champagne. And this one is not a super old cognac. Some producers use the “Lot” nomenclature to signal year of distillation—for example, Vallein Tercinier’s Lot 70 or Lot 90. I assume in this case “Lot 18” refers to the age of the cognac. I guess the French don’t care very much about the looseness of the use of these kinds of designations. Continue reading

Littlemill 29, 1988 (OMC for K&L)


This Littlemill is one of the older casks in K&L’s 2019 run of exclusives. As a 29 yo from 1988 the latest it would have been bottled would have been in 2018—I guess it just took a while to get to California. It may also be the oldest Littlemill I have had from the large parcel of late 1980s/early 1990s casks of Littlemill that began appearing from independents in the first half of the last decade (see here and here, for example). Most of those have been very good, with a big dose of fruit balanced nicely with oak and malt, with none of the funkier notes that can sometimes overwhelm Littlemill. Let’s hope this one is in that vein as well.

Littlemill 29, 1988 (55.%; OMC for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: A little spirity to star. After a few beats there’s a funky mix of malt, a light rubbery/plasticky note (a new beach ball) and lime peel. As it sits some sweeter fruity notes begin to emerge but don’t quite pop—some vanilla with them too. With more time there’s cereal and the fruit gets muskier. Less funky, more fruity with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Ardmore 10, 2009 (Old Particular for K&L)


Oh no, it’s another peated whisky. For a change, however, it’s a very recently released whisky and in fact it may still be available—yes, I checked, it is. It’s another from K&L’s recent parcel of exclusives from the Laing companies. As you know, some of my reviews from this batch have endeared me even more to K&L’s staff. What can I say? I’m easy to love.

Anyway, Ardmore: usually good, and usually not very much of it available from the distillery’s owners. Last year I reviewed a 22 year old released to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line (another Laing property) and really liked it. This one is about the half the age of that one. It’s from a barrel which might bode some risk of over-oaking—barrels are smaller than hogsheads—but it’s a refill barrel. I’m a fan of Ardmore’s brand of fruit and highland peat. Let’s hope it’s on display here. Continue reading

Longrow 14, 2010 Release


Let’s make it two weeks in a row of reviews of peated whiskies. This also rounds out a week of reviews with terrifically low utility. On Wednesday I reviewed a Caol Ila sold exclusively at the distillery in 2017; on Monday I reviewed a Port Ellen released in 2011. Today I have a Longrow 14 that was released in 2010. The last Longrow 14 I reviewed was from the 2011 release, so I appear to be going backwards in time. Someday I hope to review one released less than nine years ago (I don’t seem to have any in the stash). If you’ve had a more recent release perhaps you can tell me if my notes on the 2010 and 2011 releases track with what the 14 yo is like now. Okay, on to the review!

Longrow 14, 2010 Release (46%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Longrow goodness. That is to say, sweet, mineral peat along with a bit of coal smoke and below all of that lemon and salt. The lemon gets more preserved as it sits and there’s some savoury gunpowder. A few drops of water brightens the lemon up a bit. Continue reading

Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive, 2017


A few weeks ago I reviewed the Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive from 2017. Here now is the Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive from the same year. (Neither of these were “fill your own” casks”.) I visited Caol Ila as well in June 2017—as with the Lagavulin exclusive, I don’t believe I saw this on the shelves at the distillery either. The Lagavulin was made in a somewhat complicated manner, involving moscatel casks (which used to be/is the cask type used in the Caol Ila Distiler’s Edition). I’m not sure, however, how this one is made—Whiskybase does not say. It would be fitting if this involved PX casks (which is what the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition is “finished” in). I don’t mean to give Diageo any ideas for future releases though; on the other hand, if something like this starts happening I hope you will be willing to serve as witnesses in my intellectual property infringement  suit against them. Okay, enough folly! Let’s get to the whisky itself and see what it’s like.
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Bowmore 21, 1996 (Old Malt Cask for K&L)


Let’s continue with the review of the recent K&L exclusive casks. And no, they’re not paying me for all this free, extended coverage of their whiskies. For that matter, they don’t even appear to be enjoying it. Ah well, can’t please everyone.

Speaking of not pleasing everyone, Bowmore is also a distillery that has not always pleased everyone. This is mostly due to folly on the part of the fraction of everyone who have not been pleased. Bourbon cask Bowmore from the early 1990s on is usually a very good proposition. So much so that I’ve even really liked a K&L exclusive cask in that vein. Last year they had an OMC 22 year old that I purchased on Sku’s recommendation while in Los Angeles and loved to the tune of 91 points. I won’t need this to be that good to make me happy but I will also not object if it is. Let’s see. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 18, 2016 Release


Way back in the early months of the blog I posted a review of the 2012 release of the Bunnahabhain 18. Because I am so current I have for you today a review of a bottle from the 2016 release. I opened this bottle a few months ago but hadn’t gotten around to reviewing it until a chance mention of it in the minor fracas over my comments on K&L’s recent Clynelish exclusive reminded me that I should. As you may remember, I noted of that Clynelish that I did not think it was the best use for $250. After an initial erroneous recommendation of the Springbank 18 as a cheaper sherried alternative—when I last had the Springbank 18 it was far more sherry-driven than it is now—I mentioned the Bunnahabhain 18 in a similar vein. As you will readily imagine, David Othenin-Girard of the K&L spirits department—who apparently is my most devoted reader—was very pleased with this suggestion: he kindly wished me great enjoyment of the Bunnahabhain 18. Accordingly, I am here now with the details of that enjoyment. Continue reading

Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive, 2017


I visited Scotland for the first time in 2017. And on that trip I visited Islay and I visited Lagavulin (here is my account of the excellent Warehouse Experience with the even more excellent Pinkie McArthur). That was in June right after Feis Ile. I picked up a bottle of the Feis Ile release but I don’t believe this distillery exclusive was on the shelves then. It was apparently made in a fairly complicated manner that involved 16 yo spirit finished in moscatel casks and vatted with younger bourbon cask spirit. I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered moscatel-finished Lagavulin before—Diageo must have had some casks surplus to requirements from the Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition (is that even made anymore? I don’t see anything but the Lagavulin and Talisker Distiller’s Editions in Minnesota, not that I’m looking so very hard). Of course, I have no idea what the proportions of the vatting may have been: the moscatel influence may well be minimal. Let’s find out. Continue reading